Staff & Board of Directors
Max joined Urban Roots’ original parent organization, YouthLaunch, in August 2006 and co-founded Urban Roots the following year. Max received a BA in American Studies from Tulane University, a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Essex in Colchester, England, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin (May, 2012). In 1999, he received a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In Central Texas, he has worked with Austin Community Gardens and with several local organic farms including Tecolote Farm, Oasis Gardens, and Pure Luck AAA Goat Dairy. Max served on the City of Austin/Travis County Sustainable Food Policy Board from 2009-2011.
As a committed fundraising professional, Emily is passionate about being the bridge between where donors’ greatest desires meet the world’s great needs. She is excited to bring this desire to life for Urban Roots to support the transformational power of bringing youth and community together through food. Her past experience includes both direct service and fundraising at organizations like Project Transformation, Project HELP, Austin Child Guidance Center, and AGE of Central Texas. Emily earned a BA in Psychology and Sociology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas and a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, with a focus on Community and Administrative Leadership. Originally from the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, she is glad to have called Austin home for the past five years along with her significant other, Tim, and their spunky Yorkie-Brussels Griffon mix, Cleopatra.
Programs + Operations Director
Ian joined Urban Roots in August of 2015. A growing passion for food and social justice first drew him to the organization, and after working on the farm during the spring of 2015 as a farm apprentice he knew he wanted to be more involved. Ian earned a bachelors degree in philosophy and history in 2004 from Union University and completed a year of graduate studies in philosophy at the University of South Florida. He spent eight years working in customer service in the video games industry and is excited to be using his skills and experience to support the vital mission of Urban Roots. Ian loves to read and cook and is exploring gardening. He married his partner Amber in September of 2015 in Big Bend National Park and is excited for all of the new adventures life holds.
A North Carolina native, Lea graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Communications Studies. In college, Lea connected with the vibrant, local farming community which inspired her career path and introduced her to a transformative volunteer opportunity farming with the Center for Environment Technology and Rural Development in Kasese, Uganda. Following graduation, she served an AmeriCorps term operating a community garden for a women’s and children’s shelter in Spokane, Washington. Lea continued farming and food advocacy work in Spokane and worked as the greenhouse and produce manager for the Main Market Co-Op. She recently earned a Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Vermont. Lea is very excited to be part of the Urban Roots team and apply her passion for farming to fostering transformative experiences for young people and nourishing the Austin community.
As a committed social worker and advocate, AJ has always had a strong passion for working with today’s youth. AJ received her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas last May and was looking for an opportunity to grow her administrative and program management skills in a youth-focused community organization. One day while volunteering at the Urban Roots farm on a drizzly Saturday morning, AJ was blown away by enthusiasm and professionalism that the youth brought to the fields. It was at that moment that she knew Urban Roots was something she wanted to be a part of. AJ’s past experience includes working with teen parents at the Round Rock ISD Teen Parent Program, serving as a victim advocate with the Round Rock Police Department, and also providing program and clinical support to The LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Cancer Navigation Center. In her free time, AJ enjoys camping, cooking, and relaxing at home with her partner John and their dog Lily.
Kristen joined Urban Roots in August of 2016. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2005, studying Radio-Television-Film. After spending over eight years working in account and project management roles for various technology companies, Kristen knew that she wanted to work for an organization that makes a positive contribution to her community and combines two causes that she cares deeply about, hunger and children. This is what brought her to Urban Roots. Kristen enjoys traveling, cooking and learning new skills. She and her partner Ben have a young toddler that keeps them on their toes and is a constant reminder to enjoy every opportunity that life gives you.
Development + Volunteer Specialist
LaShawn joined the Urban Roots team in the summer of 2016. Originally from Austin, she was most recently living in the Dallas area working in sports community relations but is glad to be back home. LaShawn attended the University of North Texas and the University of Dallas earning her BBA and MBA, respectively. She is a true city girl who has recently developed a keen interest for urban farming. LaShawn has always believed that opportunity is a driving force for success for young people and is grateful to be part of Urban Roots where that belief is put into action. In her downtime you may find her cheering for her favorite sports teams, flowing through in a yoga studio, or buried in her phone being entertained by shenanigans on social media.
Food & Leadership Program VISTA
Lucia joined Urban Roots as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the fall of 2016. An Austin native, Lucia has always been passionate about using food and nutrition to help solve social problems. After receiving her BA in psychology from Southwestern University and working for two years in public health nonprofits, Lucia knew that she wanted to use her background to help empower individuals by increasing access to nutritious food. In her free time, Lucia enjoys hiking, reading, gardening, vegan cooking, watching roller derby, and relaxing at home with her partner Gabby and fat cat Andy.
Malcolm was born and raised in Austin. He attended Southwestern University where he graduated with a major in Communications and Race and Ethnic studies. After graduation, Malcolm began following his passion for activism and is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator for Counter Balance: ATX, a local grassroots social justice organization that focuses on improving the lives of self identifying women and women of color. Before working as a Youth Specialist at Urban Roots, Malcolm was a fellow in the Urban Roots Food and Leadership Fellowship. When he isn’t engaging in community activism or working, Malcolm enjoys reading, working out, playing soccer, and building relationships with others.
Board of Directors
Stuart R. Block, Board Treasurer — CPA, CVA, Powell Ebert & Smolik, P.C.
Russell Diez-Canseco, Secretary — COO, Vital Farms
Jay Ellwanger — Attorney, DiNovo, Price, Ellwanger, & Hardy
Lauren Evans — Communication & Support Catalyst, 365 by Whole Foods Market
Susanna Finnell — Community Volunteer
Valerie Granoff, LCSW — Therapist
Jeanie Haggerty — ThunderCloud Subs
Mike Martinez, Board Chair — MWM Professional Services
Kate Miller, Board Chair-Elect — Business Development Leader, DLR Group
Eric Starkloff — Executive Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, National Instruments
Simone Talma Flowers — Executive Director, Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT)
Elizabeth Winkler — Director of Product Management, message.io
Tammy Benton-Porter — Senior Financial Analyst, Abila
Jonathan Lin Davis — COO, Measure Austin
Carol Gormin — Community Volunteer
Community Advisory Council
Tim Eubanks — City of Austin Healthy Adolescent Program
Bianca Flores — Caritas of Austin
Shalieah Fox — Fresh Chefs Society
Lewis Leff — City of Austin Sustainability Department
Tristana Pirkle — Whole Kids Foundation
Stephanie Scherzer — Rain Lilly Farm
Carmen Llanes Pullido — GAVA
Kristi Sitchler — Food Corps
Andrew Smiley — Sustainable Food Center
David Pitre — Tecolote Farm
Hannah Thornton — Nutrition Professor, Texas State University